New York State is on the northern edge of what is called the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation that extends all the way down to the border of Virginia and is thought to contain vast reservoirs of natural gas that can economically be extracted by hyrdraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
By The Conservation Committee of the Rye Garden Club
New York State is on the northern edge of what is called the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation that extends all the way down to the border of Virginia and is thought to contain vast reservoirs of natural gas that can economically be extracted by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
The safety of this technique is widely and hotly debated. It has been under study in New York State since 2008. Former Gov. David Paterson imposed a moratorium on fracking in 2010 until the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation completed a comprehensive review of the safety of the process. These reviews are not yet finished, and the DEC has filed a Notice of Continuation so that the State Commissioner of Health can complete his review.
The deadline to adopt fracking regulations was late November 2012, but was extended 90 days by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to study the public health impacts. Three academic professionals have been hired. According to Gov. Cuomo, “They’re looking at the experience of other states in the country where this has been done, reports of possible health consequences. They will then help us make a determination whether there’s a true health risk or not.”
What is Fracking?
Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting a mixture of water and chemicals deep into the earth. The pressure causes shale rock formations to fracture and release natural gas. The fluid is then extracted and the natural gas is mined through the well.
Some operations have been linked to the contamination of drinking water supplies. Near the area currently under consideration for fracking is New York City’s protected watershed in the Catskill Mountains. It’s part of the source of 1.1 billion gallons of water that flows to the city each day. Opponents fear the possibility of: chemicals getting into the water table, the possibility of chemical spills in the watershed itself, disturbances to the watershed, and deforestation for the construction of roads near drilling areas. Other than water contamination, drilling for natural gas raises another concern: A few, small, repeated earthquakes have been linked to some aspects of fracking operations. There also have been reports of health difficulties for people living near wells.
Over the past few years, technological advances and increased profit margins have spurred increased use of hydraulic fracturing, according to the EPA. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates shale gas will make up more than 20 percent of the nation’s total natural gas supply by 2020. Currently, most natural gas is burned to produce electricity or heat and cool buildings. When burned, it emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal. For that reason, many of the country’s environmental groups are cautiously supportive of increased shale gas development if it can proven to be as safe as its advocates claim.
Many landowners near areas being considered for fracking are willing to lease their land for the profits that can be made. Struggling New York farmers see their neighbors in Pennsylvania making $1,000 per acre plus royalties for leasing land to drilling companies. Additionally, fracking could create thousands of jobs in economically depressed regions of New York.
Send Your Comments to the Governor
Gov. Cuomo has committed to finalizing his gas-drilling program by February 27. New York state residents have until January 11, 5 p.m. to submit comments on fracking in New York State. Log on to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website, www.dec.ny.gov/energy/76838.html, or write to: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, attn: Draft HVHF Regulations Comments, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-6510.